Sunday, 3 October 2010

Nigella, Gordon Ramsay and brilliant comedy

There are days, dear readers, that start off with the best of intentions and are filled with the anticipation of greatness to be experienced. The salivation brought on by the knowledge that what you will see may in fact be better than you ever hoped for. This was not one of them.

My intention was to fire up the iPlayer and watch some cookery programmes I had missed during the week. One, Gordon Ramsay's best restaurant always leaves me hungry and I wasn't for a minute expecting quality from Nigella, but OH the horrors, what I did get was 10 times worse, and that was Gordon Ramsay. Nigella Kitchen...Nigella's new series for the brain dead, mammary enamoured, far exceeded my lowest expectations.

Now you may ask why I bothered with Nigella at all? Yes I know it was going to be only slightly better than the annoying Miss Dahl, but as an honest person I need to at least watch something before I tell you it's rubbish. If I may begin with the beginning, Nigella, they're prawns, I don't need an epic poem about your first lover or that the smell evokes summers with your Nan while visiting the Lake District. Tell me where to get them, what a good price is and for G-d's sake, de vein the damn things.  Just how lazy are you?  Oh I forgot , you're Nigella "you can just get the cheaper powder that taste the same" Lawson. The so called recipe for roasted potatoes suggested amusingly that  chucking in a few unpeeled bits of garlic in a pan would somehow miraculously flavour your tatties drenched in, I cant believe you said this, non extra virgin olive oil. I saw nary a sign of "seasoning", garlic is to be used sparingly so as not to offend any people without taste buds. The atrocities committed to the sea food was even worse, she double cooked her calamari before putting into a pan for roasting, great way to produce rubber rings that taste even worse, not that you would notice them over the bland over cooked shrimps with vein still in. Then there was the so called salami pasta in alleged sauce.  The sauce was a tin of tomatoes watered down with pasta water. Is that it????? where is the seasoning, the onions,  the garlic , the pesto , the pine nuts, the hint of chilli maybe, or grated cheese for extra zing? And why in heaven's name was she cutting the salami with scissors??? Had she never heard of a knife? I never did get past the 10 minute mark, but I can assume the assault, had it continued would have rendered me catatonic. What Nigella Lawson knows about cooking is not worth passing on to other breathing beings intent on wasting good ingredients. As for her pantry, it was too sparse and was too brightly lit. You want food to age faster, expose it to too much light. As for the contents, it was filled with rubbish most self respecting cooks would never buy. There was nothing in it she had made herself in advance and the packets of noodles were the kind my father used to keep when he cooked just enough for himself, her pantry was in fact, empty.  A proper pantry would have been groaning with spices, herbs, flours, yeast, lards or various kinds of oils, vinegars and pastes. I didn't see barley, lima beans, rice, polenta or dried fruits like raisins or prunes. I bet she doesn't even know the names of half the utensils artfully arrayed on her work area but never used in the recipes. People please do me a favour, do not watch this ever, if you like knockers, there are plenty of shapely well endowed women on the internet who are willing to show you more than a sweater. If however you wanted to cook for your family, watch a Jamie Oliver repeat, or perhaps pick up a Hairy Bikers book, loads of great ideas with real food and real cooking skills. Other than keeping her massive breasts in constant camera shot, how this woman gets commissioned for new series is a mystery to me.

SO what did I do to calm my nerves, reset my brain to default cookery senses? I watched episode 3 of Ramsay's best restaurants, Chinese. I expected to be in a food trance that would only be ended with Dim Sum on Sunday. Instead, I was even more furious than after the Nigella debacle. Normally the programme is spot on, the criticisms just and the tests fair. But the Chinese episode showed a cultural chasm on the part of the viewers and Gordon Ramsay himself in regards to Chinese cuisine. I can speak from experience about this as I was married for 14 years to a Chinese woman and by extension her family. My father in law was a chef and we ate all sorts at home. If we went out it was only to proper, REAL, Chinese restaurants. My current (and best) wife is Jewish and raised in the belief that if pork is served  in a Chinese place in Queens, it's kosher. Any way you slice it, neither of us or my ex wife or my now deceased former father in law, would set foot in The Kai or You Yue. Both are what you call "White Devil" places. One tries to posh up to the level of the Fat Duck or one of Gordon's places and the other is just basic Chinese for non Chinese customers. Little wonder they were recommended by the ordinary Briton who thinks they make strawberry somosas or lamb chops in China. Dover Sole is also not a big seller in Hong Kong or the mainland. What the average Chinese person eats, even far from home, is so much more varied than what the white bland Briton is prepared for.

As for our Chef Gordon, I know for a fact he has not spent more than a few hours in a proper Chinese restaurant. If he had , he would be aware that cooks, sous chefs and family , SPEAK LOUDLY AT EACH OTHER! It's normal, it's in the blood and you cannot tell them not to do it.  Presentation and service are also not the same as you would expect in a normal European eatery. Chinese food comes often, all at once in several large plates and bowls. In fact you're supposed to eat it all with a bowl of rice you put things on. I hear some of you ask  what's wrong with just a plate of large cubed beef? Chinese cuisine makes sure the meats are not alone on the plate or in your mouth , they are prepared to last and stretch and mingle with your veg, nuts and sauces. In essence to pick up anything that large with chopsticks is impolite and a waste of food. Half that amount sliced, could have fed an entire family. Meats are served on a bed of various kinds of noodles and seasoned in more than just rice wine. During preparation, meat. like all ingredients in Chinese cookery, is sliced thin for easy marinating, cooking, and eating.  Oriental food is the art of the delicate mouthful that merges sweet, sour, crunchy, soft, slimy and pasty.  In fact my former Father in law cooked with sherry, whiskey,sesame oil, and fish oil for starters. The array of spices I learned to use from him and others like him, is far greater than those on display at either of the kitchens in the ep. Furthermore, to subject the Chinese chefs to a kitchen without a real wok station is to handicap the gentlemen in question. It was sad to see these fine cooks reduce their cuisine to a series of fake Chinese to please white devils who wouldn't know real Chinese if it crawled out of the bowl and said hello. I have eaten , kidneys, mushrooms, vast amounts of fish, octopus, abalone, shark, pork, beef, assorted offal, chicken and duck. Tea, an entire separate level of ceremony, seems to have been completely dropped and the desserts in no way resemble anything you would be offered in a Chinese home or eatery. You don't need to take the piss out of the cuisine or dumb it down to make it palatable, to have a food adventure. The handful of Chinese dinners in the third test were hardly quoted and far too polite to say the food was rubbish. In the case of the Kai, to equate it to so called Michelin level Chinese is an insult to the grand traditions of Chinese cuisine that include food so fine, rare and delicate that only Emperors were allowed to eat it.  There is of course the intermediary level reserved for high holy days, weddings and  foods prepared in honour of the seasons. There is a reason why things are done the way they are, and it is bound up in the rich traditions of face, communal dinning and the high wire act of selecting the best morsel from your side of the plate without offending the eldest or the most important person at the table.  Try this one for fun if you're with Chinese people in a restaurant, .... try paying, the acrobatics and diplomacy involved in this is worthy of a screen play. Gordon Ramsay got it horribly wrong.

And finally .... I watched with great delight, The Rob Brydon show, free of James Corden, he had on Stephen Fry, rising young comic Daniel Sloss and Seasick Steve. The half hour went by far too quickly, but not before we heard Rob Brydon accompany Seasick and have Stephen Fry give us a useful definition we can all apply daily... Countryside....To kill Piers Morgan. For a chaser, one tuned into Qi XL- Hoaxes and 8 out of 10 cats. I learned a few interesting things. Cauliflower is misunderstood, Sean Locke is mostly not funny on Qi or Cats, Daniel Sloss IS funny, and Stephen Fry has some strange ideas about oranges.....Oh and the hoax item on Qi??? I won't tell you, you can watch for yourself.

Have you missed  BBC 3's Ideal? Fix that now. A sitcom about a variegated group of unique individuals, starring Mick Miller, Johny Vegas and our own Alfie Joey. If you don't get it, just spend some time in an older building in a neighbourhood of artists, dreamers, writers, musicians, con men, schemers, gays, sex workers, students, and assorted nutters the NHS has deemed safe to walk the streets. Their unique views on the world get credence from each other, feeding and encouraging schemes only slightly less insane than the current story line on Ideal. I have partied with these people, they are real, well almost all of them, I've never met Cartoon Head.

Next post is Strictly Strictly, far too much to say in one short paragraph. Laters all. Howay the Lads, Good Luck against Manchester City!

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